2015 Camden Conference
February 20-22, 2015
“An absolutely phenomenal experience!” (Attendee)
“The group you gathered was absolutely first rate and I was deeply honored to have the chance to keynote for such a high-end event.”
— Matt Rojansky, Keynote Speaker
“These speakers accomplished more in a friendly debate by educating their audience and moving past their differences of opinions than our leaders do today.” (Attendee)
“Thank you for a truly riveting experience last weekend—I came away deeply impressed with the energy of the organizers and the audience.” — Constanze Stelzenmuller, Speaker
“It was an excellently well-planned and organized conference with a highly informed audience. I found it unusually stimulating.” — Daniel Treisman, Speaker
“This year’s Camden Conference [was] absolutely amazing…one continuous increasingly gratifying experience from beginning to end.” (Attendee)
Russia Resurgent gathered experts from Russia, China, Germany and the U.S. to offer in depth background and analysis on the Russian economy, its domestic and foreign policies, the crisis in Ukraine, and the role of history and Russian nationalism in the present circumstances. Lively presentations and discussions addressed the current situation and scenarios for the future of the Russian state and the balance of world order, and engaged the audience with diplomats and academics in a dynamic exchange.
Ambassador Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, returned to moderate the Conference, inviting the audience to have ample opportunity to join in the conversation.
Russia was last a Camden Conference topic in 1994. At that time, after four decades of the Cold War, Russia was engaged in a controversial sell-off of its huge mineral resources; its population was in decline; and it had few friends and admirers. The ensuing decades saw a rapid rise in its economy, a stabilization of its population, and Russia again became a force to be reckoned with, now exemplified by Russia’s move last year into Crimea and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
The 2015 Camden Conference offered attendees a deeper understanding of the attitudes informing Russian actions, from the experience of Vladimir Putin to the historical and political forces that have created the current narratives.
WATCH the Camden Conference:
Friday February 20, 2015
8 PM Welcome
President, Camden Conference
Amb. Nicholas Burns, Moderator
Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School
Director, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson Center
Saturday February 21, 2015
8:45 AM Opening Remarks
Amb. Nicholas Burns, Moderator
Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School
9:00 AM Nina Tumarkin
Professor of History at Wellesley College
Associate, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University
9:30 AM Nikolay Petrov
Professor of Faculty of Politics at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow
10:00 AM Break
10:30 AM Daniel Treisman
Professor of Political Science, UCLA
11:00 AM Panel of Keynote and Morning Speakers
1:30 PM Amb. Steven Pifer
Senior Fellow, the Brookings Institution
2:00 PM Constanze Stelzenmuller
Senior Fellow, Center on the United States and Europe, the Brookings Institution
2:30 PM Break
3:00 PM Lanxin Xiang
Professor of International History and Politics, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva
3:30 PM Panel of Afternoon Speakers
4:30 PM Adjourn for the Day
Sunday February 22, 2015
9:00 AM Thomas Graham
Senior Fellow, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale University Managing Director, Kissinger Associates
9:45 AM Fyodor Lukyanov
International journalist and political analyst. Editor in Chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs
10:30 AM Break
11:00 AM Final Panel of All Speakers
12:30 PM Conference Adjourns
Matthew Rojansky, Director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center, is an expert on U.S. and Russian national security and nuclear weapons policy. His work focuses on relations among the U.S., NATO, and the states of the former Soviet Union, particularly Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. From 2010 to 2013, he was Deputy Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He founded Carnegie’s Ukraine Program, led a multi-year project to support U.S.–Russia health cooperation, and created a task force on the Moldova–Transnistria conflict. From 2007 to 2010, Rojansky served as executive director of the Partnership for a Secure America (PSA), where he orchestrated high-level bipartisan initiatives aimed at repairing the U.S.–Russia relationship, strengthening the U.S. commitment to nuclear arms control and nonproliferation, and leveraging global science engagement for diplomacy. Rojansky is a participant in the Dartmouth Dialogues, a U.S.–Russia conflict-resolution initiative begun in 1960.
R. Nicholas Burns
Nicholas Burns is Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School and a Board Member of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He retired from the State Department in April 2008 after a distinguished career spanning 27 years. From 2005 until his retirement, Burns was Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs—the third-ranking position in the State Department—where he led U.S. negotiations with Iran, India, and Kosovo and supervised U.S. diplomacy in all regions of the world. Burns also was U.S. Ambassador to NATO and to Greece. He was the State Department Spokesman for two years and spent five years on the National Security Council (NSC) staff, including serving as Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton, focusing on the former Soviet Union. Under President George H. W. Bush, he was Director for Soviet (and then Russian) Affairs on the National Security Council.
Nikolay Petrov is a Professor in the Faculty of Politics at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Fundamental Studies, Laboratory for Qualitative and Quantitative Methods of Analysis of Political Regimes. A noted political scientist and political geographer, he has contributed many articles to leading Russian and foreign media and is a regular columnist for the English-language Moscow Times. He is the co-author and editor of The Dynamics of Russian Politics: Putin’s Reform of Federal–Regional Relations, published in 2005, and co-editor (with Maria Lipman) of Russia 2025: Scenarios for the Future, published in 2013. Petrov is the former chair of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Society and Regions Project. From 1990 to 1995, he was an adviser to the Russian Parliament. He is a graduate of the Geographical and Economics Faculty of Moscow State University and holds a PhD in Geography.
Steven Pifer Steven Pifer is the Director of the Brookings Institution Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative. He is also a Senior Fellow with the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, and with the Center on the United States and Europe in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. A former Ambassador to Ukraine (1998 to 2000), Pifer had a long Foreign Service career that centered on Europe, the former Soviet Union, and arms control and security issues. Pifer had postings in London, Moscow, Geneva, and Warsaw, as well as on the National Security Council. He has frequently provided commentary and analysis on CNN, NPR, BBC, VOA, and Fox News. Pifer is coauthor of The Opportunity: Next Steps in Reducing Nuclear Arms, published in 2012. He is a board member of the American Academy of Diplomacy, a senior adviser to the U.S.–Ukraine Business Council, and a member of the Nuclear Security Working Group.
Constanze Stelzenmüller is the inaugural Robert Bosch senior fellow with the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution. Previously, she was a senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States, where she directed the influential Transatlantic Trends survey program. Her areas of expertise include: transatlantic relations; German foreign policy; NATO; the EU’s foreign, security and defense policy; international law; and human rights. Stelzenmüller is a governor of the Ditchley Foundation and a fellow of the Royal Swedish Society for War Sciences. She has worked in Germany and the United States; has been a frequent commentator on American and European radio and TV; and speaks English, French, German, and Spanish. She holds a doctorate in law from the University of Bonn, a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and a law degree from the University of Bonn.
Nina Tumarkin is Professor of History at Wellesley College and a longtime Associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. Her expertise includes current Russian cultural politics; comparative national memories of war; and official apologies for historical wrongdoings. In 1985, before President Reagan’s first summit meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva, Tumarkin served as one of six “Soviet experts” who briefed the president and his staff. She is the author of several books, including The Living and the Dead: The Rise and Fall of the Cult of World War II in Russia (Basic Books, 1995), and Lenin Lives! The Lenin Cult in Soviet Russia (Harvard University Press, 1997). Her current research project is titled “Coming to Grips with the Soviet Past: The Politics of Historical Memory in Russia, 2005–2012.” She has lectured on many Wellesley alumni trips in Russia, Eastern Europe, and the Baltic.
Lanxin Xiang is Professor of International History and Politics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. He previously was Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at Clemson University in South Carolina. During the year 2003–2004, Xiang held the Kissinger Chair of Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress. He was a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in Germany in 1989 and an Olin Fellow at Yale University in 2003. Xiang has held chairs at Fudan University in Shanghai and China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing. He founded the Trilateral Forum, providing a venue for top-level policymakers to discuss China. He is a contributing editor for the publication Survival at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London, and Dushu Magazine in Beijing. Xiang received his PhD from the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Fyodor Lukyanov is an international journalist and political analyst based in Moscow. Since 2002, he has been Editor in Chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, published by the Foreign Policy Research Foundation. He is Chairman of Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, the oldest Russian NGO, providing expertise in security and foreign affairs. He is also a Presidium Member of the nonprofit organization Russian Council on Foreign Affairs. Lukyanov’s previous positions include Senior Editor, Department for Broadcasting to Northern Europe, “Voice of Russia,” on International Moscow Radio (1990–1993); International Correspondent for the newspaper Segodnya (1994–1997); Editor of the international desk of the Vremya MN newspaper (1997–2000); and Deputy Editor in Chief of the Vremya Novostei newspaper (2000–2002). A graduate of the philological faculty of Moscow State University, he is fluent in German, Swedish, and English, in addition to his native Russian.
Daniel Treisman is Professor of Political Science at UCLA and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. His work focuses on Russian politics and economics and comparative political economy. Educated at Oxford and Harvard University, he has published four books and numerous articles in leading political science and economics journals. He has also served as a consultant for the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In Russia, he is a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Higher School of Economics and a member of the Jury of the National Prize in Applied Economics. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a visiting fellow at both the Hoover Institution and the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. His most recent book, The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev (2011), was named one of the Financial Times’s “Best Political Books of 2011.”
Thomas Graham is a managing director at Kissinger Associates, focusing on Russian and Eurasian affairs. He was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia on the NSC staff from 2004 to 2007 and the National Security Council’s Director for Russian Affairs from 2002 to 2004. Prior to that, he served as the State Department’s Associate Director of the Policy Planning Staff. From 1998 to 2001, Graham was a Senior Associate in the Russia/Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. From 1984 to 1998, as a Foreign Service Officer, he had two tours of duty at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, where he served as head of the political/internal unit and acting Political Counselor. Between Moscow assignments, he worked on Russian and Soviet affairs on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and as a policy assistant in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.
Elena Poptodorova is our special Guest Panelist. Elena Poptodorova has served as Bulgarian Ambassador to the United States since 2010, having held the same position from 2002 to 2008, a period in which Bulgaria joined NATO and the European Union. In the interim, she led the Security Policy Directorate at Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and served as Ambassador-at-Large for the Black Sea Region. Although Ambassador Poptodorova began her professional life as a diplomat, she was also involved in politics in the 1990s as a member of Parliament, serving on the foreign policy, national security, radio and TV, human rights and agriculture committees. She was awarded degrees in English, Italian and international relations in Bulgaria and also studied at Leeds University in England and the University of Siena in Italy. She is currently deputy chair of the Board of Trustees of the American University in Bulgaria. She speaks English, Italian, French and Russian, in addition to her native Bulgarian.
I. POLITICS and PUTIN
Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin
Hill, Fiona and Gaddy, Clifford.
Brookings Institution Press, 2013
Acclaimed, particularly as a guide for policy makers, in this book Russian experts Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy answer the question, “Who is Mr. Putin?” Drawing on many sources, including their own personal encounters with him, they argue that there are, in fact, several ‘real’ Putins. His outlook has been shaped by many influences – a combination of his archetypical Russian mentality, his very close reading of Russian history and literature, his own early life and KGB training, his time in East Germany, his experiences in St. Petersburg in the 1990s, his early days behind the scenes in Moscow, and his time at the helm of the Russian state. Understanding his multidimensional nature is and should be important for U.S. and other policymakers trying to decide how to approach and interact with him.
Russia 2025: Scenarios for the Russian Future
Lipman, Maria and Petrov, Nikolay.*
Palgrave Macmillan, 2013
Two major Russian experts – Maria Lipman (Chief Editor of Pro et Contra, journal of the Moscow Carnegie Center) and Nikolay Petrov (Professor of Higher School of Economics Research Institute), analyze the Russian economy and politics, while also offering development scenarios for the next decade. Experts are impressed by the depth of analysis and its comprehensive review of the reality of contemporary Russia. (From Russia Direct’s “Top 10 Books about Russia Published in 2013”)
Politics in Russia, 7th Edition
Pearson Education, Inc., 2012
Thomas Remington, of Emory University and the Davis Center at Harvard, has written the most widely used authoritative text on how the Russian Federation is governed. He is a member of the Camden Conference and a summer resident of Northport.
Henry Holt Company, LLC, 2007
Politkovskaya, murdered in Moscow in 2006, was a fiercely independent and critical investigative journalist, writing about the war in Chechnya, corruption, and the character of Vladimir Putin.
Part of Europe. History of the Russian state. From its origins to the Mongol Invasion
Akunin (Grigory Chkartishvili), is a leading Russian intellectual, author of the Erast Fandorin historical detective novels and a filmmaker, essayist, and translator from Japanese. This volume presents his historical interpretation of Russia.
Russia and the Soviet Union: A Historical Introduction from the Kieven State to the Present
Thompson, John M.
Westview Press, 2012
Comprehensive, balanced, up to date, engaging, and deftly written, Russia and the Soviet Union may be the best brief history of Russia available today.” — Donald J. Raleigh, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991
Metropolitan Books, 2014
Figes, a British historian, provides an excellent survey of the Russian revolution and the Soviet Union. His book covers diplomacy and international affairs as well as internal developments. In his view, Communist ideology and the revolution shaped Russia throughout the Soviet era.
A History of Twentieth Century Russia
Penguin Books, 1999
“Always well-informed and balanced in his judgments, clear and concise in his analysis. . .Service is extremely good on Soviet politics.” – Orlando Figes, Sunday Telegraph
“A fine book. . .it is a dizzying tale and Service tells it well; he has none of the ideological baggage that has so often bedeviled Western histories of Russia.” – Brian Moynahan, Sunday Times
The First Socialist Society: A History of the Soviet Union from Within, Second Enlarged Edition
Harvard University Press, 1997
Hosking explores the impact of Soviet socialism on people’s lives, an emphasis often overlooked in books about Soviet high politics and diplomacy.
It Was a Long Time Ago and it Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past
Yale University Press, 2011
Satter argues that Russia has failed to come to terms with its communist history, and this explains much of what we see in Russian behavior today.
III. ECONOMY AND ENERGY
Russia’s Capitalist Revolution: Why Market Reform Succeeded and Democracy Failed
Peterson Institute, 2007
The central paradox about contemporary Russia is why capitalism has taken root, but democracy has not. Anders Aslund provides a crisp, comprehensive, and compelling answer. “Russia’s Capitalist Revolution will become a classic overnight, the standard by which all future books on the last two decades of Soviet and Russian history will be judged.” – Michael McFaul, director, Center on Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law, Stanford University.
Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia
Oxford University Press, 2010
This may be Goldman’s best book, and that’s saying a lot. Goldman explains why and how Russia has again emerged as a global power. The answer is oil. At inflated prices, it leads directly to inflated national aspirations and further down the road to dangers of a totally unpredictable nature.” – Marvin Kalb, former Moscow bureau chief for CBS News.
Wheel of Fortune: The Battle for Oil and Power in Russia
Belknap Press, 2012
“Thane Gustafson is the master expert on Russia’s vast oil and gas industry. He tells the story of the past two decades as the hydrocarbon-rich Eurasian giant has sought, in fits and starts, to shuck its Soviet past and become a normal, modern nation, integrated into the global economy.” – Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution.
IV. FOREIGN POLICY
Post Imperium: A Eurasian Story
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2011
Trenin, a Russian at the Carnegie Endowment, argues that Russia seeks influence but not the re-creation of empire. He analyzes Russian relations with Europe, China and Central Asia. Trenin was a speaker at an earlier Camden Conference.
Russian Foreign Policy: Interests, Vectors, and Sectors
Gvosdev, Nikolas K. and Marsh, Christopher.
Cq Pr., 2014
Gvosdev, of the Naval War College, and Marsh, of the Army School of Advanced Military Studies, analyze Russian foreign policy, with historical background, by looking in the various directions from Moscow.
Russia’s Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity, 3rd Edition
Tsygankov, Andrei P.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013
Tsygankov traces three views of Russian foreign policy, West, Eurasia, and Euro-East, competing for influence since the demise of the Soviet Union.
Russia’s Arctic Strategies and the Future of the Far North
M.E. Sharpe, 2013
A timely and important book. As the ice melts, Russia has been making a major effort to promote the Northeast Passage as a trade route between Asia and Europe and to secure claims to undersea resources. The Arctic has been neglected in U.S. policy, and is now finally receiving some attention.
V. SOCIETY and CULTURE
Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia
Beginning in the 18th century with the building of St. Petersburg and culminating with the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself. Skillfully interweaving the great works of Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons, and all the customs of daily life, Figes explores the spirit of “Russianness” which outlasts rulers and regimes. (Adapted from Publisher’s remarks).
The Winter Queen
Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2004
Akunin’s Erast Fandorin’s historical detective novels set in late Tsarist times have made him a celebrity in Russia. Winter Queen stars the naive but eager Fandorin as a young investigator with the Moscow police. Why would a university student shoot himself in the middle of the Alexander Gardens? Fandorin sets out to find the answer and soon lands in the middle of a far-reaching international conspiracy. Akunin contrasts the comical innocence of his hero with the decadence of Moscow aristocrats idling in gambling clubs while the winds of revolution begin to blow. (Adapted from Booklist)
The Russia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Barker, Adele and Grant, Bruce, eds.
Duke University Press Books, 2010
This big collection of short pieces, mostly by Russian authors, includes essays, documents, reflections on daily life throughout Russian history, and some important bits from the Russian literary canon.
The Portable 20th Century Russia Reader
Brown, Clarence, ed.
Penguin Books, 2003
Much of the best of early 20th century Soviet writing is represented in this anthology, including Blok, Mayakovsky, Bulgakov, Pasternak, Mandelstam, Akhmatova, Shalamov, Solzhenitsyn and others. Start with Tolstoy’s enigmatic story Alyosha the Pot.
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing
von Bremzen, Anya.
Funny, delightful journey through the various episodes of the workers’ paradise, told from the kitchen of a Russian-Jewish family. From dinner table conversations and Soviet cookbooks, von Bremzen explains what Rodina, the Soviet Motherland, was really all about.
VI. RUSSIA AND THE NEIGHBORS
The History of Ukraine
This book offers a current, concise, and analytical history of the Ukraine. Kubicek, a professor of political science at Oakland University, takes an interesting, informative look at how Ukrainian politics has evolved, and its development as a nation. (From Publisher’s remarks)
Crisis in Ukraine
Rose, Gideon, ed.
Council on Foreign Relations, 2014
Crisis in Ukraine sets the intellectual stage for understanding the turmoil in Eastern Europe, what is really at stake, and what will come next. The arguments presented span the ideological spectrum, and the authors include a range of leading experts from several disciplines and countries, including Yuliya Tymoshenko, Alexander Motyl, Orlando Figes, Kathryn Stoner, Daniel Treisman, Brian Taylor, Kathleen McNamara, and more. (From Publisher’s remarks).
The Caucasus: An Introduction
de Waal, Thomas.
Oxford University Press, 2010
“This is the definitive text for anyone interested in this complex region. De Waal describes the deep roots of current conflicts, and his analysis of the present situation is right on target. It should be required reading for anyone involved in Caucasian affairs.” – Richard Miles, former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War
de Waal, Thomas.
NYU Press, 2004
“Never have all the twists and turns, sad carnage, and bullheadedness on all sides been better described – or, indeed, better explained . . . Offers a deeper and more compelling account of the conflict than anyone before.” – Foreign Affairs
Georgia: A Political History Since Independence
Jones, Stephen F.
I. B. Taurus, 2012
“This impressive book represents a substantial achievement. It presents a rare but desperately needed and fresh analysis of contemporary Georgia. The author has unusually perceptive eyes that see through the stock categories and clichés that shape so much commentary and analysis about Georgia. I don’t know of any other treatment of Georgia (or its neighbors) that is as thorough.” -Dr Michael Reynolds, Associate Professor, Princeton University.
The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Ghazavat to Jihad
Schaefer, Robert W.
“A remarkable book … Col Schaefer’s book does a fine job in summarizing the breadth and depth of the conflict, and making the latest military thinking about insurgencies accessible, while steering clear of polemic or bias. This book tells you a lot about the Caucasus. And also about the brainpower assets of the American military.” — The Economist
The Fight for Influence: Russia in Central Asia
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2013
“Central Asia is a key region for Russian security, and also significant for Russia in both the economic and cultural sense. Malashenko mentions the reduction of Russia’s influence in Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and considers the interaction between Russia and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.” (From Russia Direct’s “Top 10 Books about Russia Published in 2013”).
I. HISTORY & POLITICS
An examination of Russian journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya’s death while covering the Chechen conflict and President Vladimir Putin.
Andrei Tarkovsky, the acclaimed master of Soviet cinema, takes a moving and personal turn with this striking meditation on life in Russia during the bleak days of WWII. It is not just the display of a film director at the peak of his unique powers. As an homage to the innocence of childhood, it tells an enigmatic tale that is both gripping and horrifying.
Based on the life and work of the Russian film director Alexander Medvedkin, The Last Bolshevik is a tribute from one filmmaker to another. An archeological expedition into film history that reveals new cinematic treasures, the film prompts a reflection on the relation between art and politics in the former Soviet Union. The film captures the commitment, energy, struggles, illusions and disillusions of a believing, but naïve, Bolshevik.
2. CONTEMPORARY DOCUMENTARIES
My Perestroika follows five ordinary Russians living in extraordinary times — from their sheltered Soviet childhood, to the collapse of the Soviet Union during their teenage years, to the constantly shifting political landscape of post-Soviet Russia. Together, these childhood classmates paint a complex picture of the dreams and disillusionment of those raised behind the Iron Curtain.
This documentary takes viewers into the hidden world of one of Russia’s most impenetrable and remote institutions: Penal Colony 56, a maximum security prison exclusively for murderers. Deep inside the land of the gulags, this is the end of the line for some of Russia’s most dangerous criminals – 260 men who have collectively killed nearly 800 people. The Condemned is unlike any prison documentary seen before: a unique and startling insight into inscrutable minds and the dark and forbidding world they have been condemned to.
The true rags-to-riches story of Mickhail Khodorkovsky, the former Russian oligarch who spoke out against state corruption, only to be arrested and convicted on transparently false tax and embezzlement charges.
The story of the unconditional, no-holds-barred tour of America by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, leader of World Communism and America’s arch-enemy, during 13 sun-filled days in the fall of 1959.
In the Russian part of Lapland, some 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) north of Moscow, winter temperatures dip down to the negative double digits. It’s as white as the eye can see here, and there’s hardly a human being to speak of. Here, Olga lives in a simple dwelling under a think layer of snow. She watches over the rations and vehicles of the reindeer herders, who won’t return until spring. This year, she spent 177 days by herself, with only a cat to keep her company. Olga is the only woman in the reindeer brigade, and the work isn’t without its dangers. Food often gets stolen, she once came face to face with a bear, and was run over by a herd of reindeer, but Olga feels right at home here.
The compelling story of five children whose parents were members of the American Communist Party in the 1950s, this film offers an unusually intimate perspective on Cold War politics and on the New Left of the 1960s. Among those who recount their coming-of-age stories are ’60s rock musician Country Joe McDonald, Eugene Dennis Jr., whose father was head of the Communist Party, and journalist David Horowitz, who is now a leading spokesman for Neo-Conservatism.
Co-directed by Paul Mitchell and Sarah Willis to include.
A production of Intelligent Television and Wilton Films, Russia’s Open Book premiered nationally on PBS in December, and the film is now streaming online. Hosted by actor, author, and activist Stephen Fry, Russia’s Open Book celebrates contemporary Russian authors as they carry on one of the world’s greatest literary traditions. Contemporary authors are interviewed extensively in the film, with contributions from their literary critics, publishers, and peers. Excerpts from their recent works are brought to life by vivid animated sequences created exclusively for the film – with Fry providing dramatic readings in English.
A four-part British documentary television series about the relationship between Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the West, this was first shown in January and February 2012 on BBC Two. Director, Paul Mitchell.
Vladimir Putin began his career as a top Russian spy. But as President he made himself a valued ally of the West. How did he do it? And what made Washington and London then turn against him? For the first time, Putin’s top colleagues – and the Western statesmen who eventually clashed with him – tell the inside story.
3. FILMS BY MARINA GOLDOVSKAYA
In her quest to uncover the wrongdoings of the Russian authorities, Anna Politkovskaya inspired awe in some and fear in countless others. An investigative journalist for Moscow’s liberal Novaya Gazeta, she was often the only spokesperson for victims of the Chechen War. Hers was a lonely voice, yet loud enough for the entire country to hear. It was too loud. At age 48 she was assassinated. This documentary is based on Anna’s conversations with filmmaker Marina Goldovskaya, Anna’s former university professor and personal friend. Shot over a period of 20 years, this exclusive footage creates an incredible story of a woman who consciously gave her life for her convictions.
Marina Goldovskaya’s 1988 Solovki Power is of historical importance for what it shows to have been and for the way it demonstrates the degree of self-examination going on within the Soviet Union at the time. This remarkable documentary is about the prison camp said to have been the prototype for all of the gulags that came after, though its life was comparatively short (1923-1939). Called a “special service camp,” Solovki was on the largest island in the Solovetsky archipelago in the White Sea.
4. FILMS ON RUSSIAN BALLET, MUSIC & ART
This is a lovingly and confidently made documentary that brings to life an era of unequaled artistic excitement. Heart-wrenching, riveting and thoroughly entertaining, Ballets Russes unwinds like a historical thriller, laying bare the politics, rivalries, tremendous egos, and creative appetites that produced two of the world’s greatest ballet companies.
Ballerina is a portrait of five Russian ballerinas from the Mariinsky Theatre (also known as the Kirov). Superstars like Nijinsky, Baryshnikov and Pavlova established the reputation of Russian dancers as the best in the world. The five dancers profiled in this revealing film are tough, insightful and exceptionally talented; onstage they reveal no hint of the sweat, pain and hard work of the rehearsal studio. From Swan Lake to Romeo and Juliet, from the backstage studio to performing on stages around the world, Ballerina captures the sublime beauty of ballet, in all its resplendent glory.
The soloists and ballet of the Mariinsky Theater present a New Year’s Eve Concert in Saint Petersburg, performing excerpt From Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, Saint-Saens The Dying Swan , and Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Reims. Valery Gergiev conducts the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater.
This documentary includes film of some of the works Balanchine choreographed, as well as reminiscences of some of his dedicated dancers. His troubled personal life is only glancingly alluded to. The focus of this documentary is on his transcendent artistry.
Nutcracker Story is a dazzling new film about one of the world’s most popular ballets performed by the artists of the Royal Ballet Covent Garden and Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet. It returns to the original fairytale and explores a magical childhood world of dancing snowflakes, giant Christmas trees and sinister rats. Nutcracker Story is narrated by Simon Russell Beale and features principal dancers of the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden and The Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet. Valery Gergiev, the celebrated musical director of the Mariinsky Theatre, conducts Tchaikovsky’s famous score.
Nikolai Rochenko (Barishnokov) is a Russian ballet dancer who defected to the West. As the dancer attempts a flight to freedom, a malfunction forces the plane to land in Russia. The KGB reports his injuries are so severe that he must remain in treatment. In reality, they want him to stay in Russia and take him to his apartment where an American who defected o Russia keeps an eye on him. Rochenko, however, is not about to give in and is determined to escape.
Set against the backdrop of the magical White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, Sacred Stage features the best in Russian symphonic music, ballet and opera at Russia’s premier theater–the Mariinsky, also known as the Kirov. The Film explores how the theater has somehow maintained its artistic excellence through war, revolution and the collapse of Communism, and what it has meant to Russian and Soviet culture. It also looks at the life and work of Maestro Valery Gergiev, artistic and theater director at the Mariinsky, and captures the excitement of his world – a world populated with artists, socialites, financiers, politicians and celebrities.
Narrated by Emmy Award-winning actor Richard Thomas, Sacred Stage tells the astonishing story of the Mariinsky’s survival, illustrated with stunning performances from the opera and ballet, as well as candid interviews with luminaries, scholars and performers.
The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world holding over 3 million treasures and boasting more curators than any other art institution. To mark the momentous occasion of its 250th anniversary the museum opened its doors for the filming of Hermitage Revealed – a cinematic event that is a must-see for all fans of art, architecture and the culture and history of Russia. The film includes interviews with the Hermitage’s director Mikhail Piotrovsky, museum curators, as well as the architect Rem Koolhaas, and the British artist Antony Gormley.
In 2002, the Hermitage was the subject of this critically acclaimed historical drama. Set in the Winter Palace and consisting of a single 96-minute shot using a Steadicam, Russian Ark is a example of virtuoso filmmaking. An unnamed narrator wanders through the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. The narrator implies that he died in some horrible accident and is a ghost drifting through the palace. In each room, he encounters various real and fictional people from various periods in the city’s 300-year history.
True story of Igor Savitsky who helped art survive in a time of oppression. During the Soviet era artists who did not conform to the standards of Soviet realism were sent to mental hospitals, gulags or even killed. Savitsky rescued over 40,000 works by forbidden artists, and created a museum in a remote area in Uzbekistan far from Moscow and the KGB. The collection is a mix of Russian avant-garde art and a folk style unique to the area – European modernism with Islamic motifs.
The celebrated conceptual artist Ilya Kabakov, now 80, has spoken extensively about the “total installation,” an art form that can bear some resemblance to a meticulously dressed movie set. The art critic and filmmaker Amei Wallach confront Kabakov’s work head-on in a dynamically shot 2013 documentary that journeys into the Soviet past as it is remembered and reworked by Kabakov and his wife and partner, Emilia.
Through film clips, journal entries, and personal musings, this is renowned French filmmaker Chris Marker’s homage to his friend, the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, who died in 1986.
With behind-the-scenes footage of Tarkovsky obsessively commanding his entire crew (including famed Bergman cinematographer Sven Nykvist, during the filming of a complicated sequence from his final film The Sacrifice), and candid moments of Tarkovsky with friends and family as he is bedridden but still working on the editing of his final film, it is a personal and loving portrait of one of the world’s greatest filmmakers.
5. RUSSIAN CLASSICS
Considered one of the most important films in the history of silent pictures, and possibly Eisenstein’s greatest work, Battleship Potemkin brought Eisenstein’s theories of cinema art to the world in a powerful showcase for his emphasis on montage, his stress on intellectual ideas, and his treatment of the masses – instead of the individual – as protagonist. The film tells the story of the mutiny on the Russian ship Prince Potemkin during the 1905 uprising.
1984 – A fine and stunning screen adaptation of George Orwell’s prophetic 1948 novel about a world in which the government completely controls the masses by controlling their thoughts, altering history and even changing the meaning of words to suit its needs. This was Richard Burton’s final film. Crime and Punishment is a modern day adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s classic novel about a young student who is forever haunted by the murder he has committed.
This lustful adaptation of Tolstoy’s brilliant and influential novel stands as one of the finest film versions ever conceived.
Keira Knightly and Jude Law dazzle in director Joe Wright’s visually enchanting new version of Leo Tolstoy’s epic love story.
Boris Pasternak’s acclaimed novel could not have been portrayed more beautifully on screen than in this epic film by David Lean. The bitterly cold landscape of Russia in the winter contrasts sharply with the fires burning within the characters. Omar Sharif and Julie Christie are magic together.
The Brothers Karamazov is a 1969 Soviet film based on the novel by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. An object lesson illustrating the absolute difference between good and evil, a father and four sons, one illegitimate, come to terms with their differing characters.
Director King Vidor superbly condenses Leo Tolstoy’s brilliant epic novel into 208 minutes of viewing time. He successfully captures the flavor of Russia at war and peace from 1805, when Napoleon engaged the armies of the Russian and Austrian Empires, to his invasion of Mother Russia, and Moscow itself, in 1812. The focus is on the social, political, and military upheavals of this period in Russia, with some philosophy thrown in.
The Idiot, an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 19th century masterpiece about a wayward, pure soul’s reintegration into society is updated by Akiri Kurosawa to capture Japan’s postwar aimlessness — and, finally, public indifference. Today, this looks ever more fascinating, a stylish, otherworldly evocation of one man’s wintry mindscape.
(A Source of Russian classics on DVD)
5. OTHER FILMS
Set in contemporary Moscow, Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor), the dark forces battle the super-human “Others” of the Night Watch, whose mission is to patrol and protect. But there is constant fear that an ancient prophecy will come true: that a powerful “Other” will rise up, be tempted by one of the sides, and tip the balance plunging the world into a renewed war between the dark and light, the results of which would be catastrophic. The film is the first installment of a trilogy based on the best-selling sci-fi novels of Sergei Lukyanenko entitled Night Watch, Day Watch and Dusk Watch.
This film is arguably Tarkovsky’s best film (and the last one made completely under the auspices of the USSR), and a film that gets inside your head and your soul. The plot is rather simple. An alien force lands on Earth, and then leaves. The area where they landed is a vast wasteland where the laws of physics are suspended. It’s been dubbed the zone (or 3OHA in Russian). A stalker (not the current definition), a writer, and a professor venture into the zone, where there is a room that will grant you your most inner wishes. Now, it’s not what you ask for, it’s what you really desire.
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